Burlesque Idol 2012 - Madam Jo Jo's

You know, I could get used to this... It's not every day I get invited down to to a club in the middle of Soho and allowed to practice on the unsuspecting performers on stage.I arrived at 6.15 and was allowed down stairs to be greeted by nearly a dozen women in various states of undress.. Not knowing where to point my lens, I sort out Tempest Rose to meet and greet and stake out a position in the club.

There was already a place assigned and I was joined soon after by TJ who was taking video and Keef, another photographer. We compared lenses and cameras, Keef said he liked to be different as he had a Sony to mine and TJ's Canon's.

We had a couple of minutes to chat about the area and I mentioned to both that the last time I was here I noticed the lighting would change dependent on where the performer was on the stage. At the back the top of the head may darken, and the front would produce a lot of glare and hot zones on the face, and twirling white feather fans would catch every high light possible.

The position I was in this night would mean I could see more of the stage so I could plan out where I would concentrate my shooting. I knew I had to wait for the right moments, and not be as snap happy as I had been last time.


Soon we heard the announcement from Tempest Rose that the show was to begin. On stage strode the compare for the evening,  Barnaby Slater.

Part comedian, part angry person.

Immediately poking fun at people in the audience who were texting on mobile phones while he was talking, wondering why others were reading their own mail they had brought with them and berating the people who were at the back because he felt they were cheap.

The acts were this years winners from the monthly performances. The eventual winner performed early on in the show and brought the bloody house down!!

It is hard enough to keep a camera free from shaking at the best of times, let alone when there is a wall of sound battering you from the screaming hoard of Burlesque watchers foot stamping behind me! I think there were at least a hundred people all going nuts over her performance.

Even Barnaby seemed to be in absolute shock and arrived back on stage speechless, dropped to his knees and couldn't think what to do for a few moments.

I saw some great acts, funny, outrageous, even dangerous at times! (mind that broom handle! No don't throw the knife!), but I came away with the feeling that I had indeed progressed with my camera. Not only in the use of the camera but also in waiting for and anticipating the right moment to capture a great shot.

Ok so I imported 1200 shots again but so far I have only thrown away 600 of them for being either blurry, just out of focus to warrant letting go, to much ISO noise (most were at ISO 3200), cutting off limbs which would otherwise spoil a good shot or for the simple reason that between 1 second to the next two, three or even four shots can look similar and my hard drive space is limited. Why have four when one shot will trigger a memory anyway?

I made a self rule to only keep up to 30 shots per act with 15 as a minimum, otherwise I would go blind comparing one to another. Adobe Lightroom helps so much with this task, I can accept or reject photos quickly, group the rejects to trash when I'm done so I can concentrate on the good ones.

I was using the EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II lens on my Canon 550d shooting in Aperture priority with spot metering. This, I hoped, would help with the ever changing light levels around the stage. Most shots were taken at 3200 ISO which on my Canon can be very grainy. Some came down to ISO 800 if the performer was center stage. I tried to get sharp focus on the faces and in some I was successful.

Ok, question time. How do you photograph something that is white, with more white around it and try to get definition without pumping the sharpness up? I talking about white feather fans. Don't get me wrong they look great when you get it right, I got it right when they were not moving!

Oh and glittery silver hoops too! Great in motion but having to fight with the camera to lock on to them properly was a challenge. (quodos to Oh Carolina for flashing a smile!)

Rant over...

So I have already been in contact with the winner, Violet Blaze, who has given me grace to post those shots on my Flickr site here. I hope to hear from the others soon! I got a fantastic response from the performers in June so I hope to match that this time.

I am pleased with the overall results from the evening, I was entertained and trained, also made a few contacts, met some beautiful women, was given a business card (got mine delivered the morning after!) and nearly knocked an old person down the escalators with my massive camera bag at Piccadilly Circus tube station... should have had my camera out for that one!